Puerto Rico: Experiencing Ponce's Charm

Puerto Rico's second largest city, Ponce, was founded in 1692 by Ponce de Leon's great-grandson, Juan Ponce de Leon y Loiaza. Called the Pearl of the South, the city is a 90-minute drive south from San Juan. A $450 million plan to revitalize Ponce was completed in time for 1992's 500th anniversary celebration of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World.

More than 600 of its 1,000 historic buildings have been restored. Its distinctive architecture, dating from the mid-1800s to the 1930s, reflects Ponce's heyday as a wealthy business and cultural center and magnet for poets, painters and politicians. Gas lamps along the streets, pink marble that edges sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages were also a part of Ponce's revitalization and now contribute to the city's turn-of-the-century charm.

Major sites include:

  • The Museum of Puerto Rican Music. This museum is housed in an historic residence built in the 19th century by Juan Bertoli Calderoni, the father of Puerto Rico's neoclassical architectural style. It showcases the development of Puerto Rican music, with exhibits of Indian, Spanish and African musical instruments.
  • Museo Castillo Serralles. Built in the 1930s on a hill overlooking the city, this Spanish Revival mansion is one of Puerto Rico's architectural treasures. It was home to the island's oldest rum-making family. It is now a museum featuring family furnishings as well as exhibits on the rum and sugar industry.
  • Parque de Bombas. This unusual building -- it is painted black, red, green and yellow -- was constructed as a pavilion for an agricultural fair in 1882 and became Puerto Rico's first official firehouse a year later. It is now a museum with antique fire trucks, equipment and memorabilia.
  • Museo de Arte de Ponce. This museum with more than 1,000 paintings and 400 sculptures features the finest collection of European and Latin American art in the Caribbean. It was designed by Edward Durrell Stone, architect of New York's Museum of Modern Art.
  • Museum of the History of Ponce. The museum traces the history of the city from Taino Indian times to the present. It is housed in Casa Salazar, a neoclassical masterpiece built in 1911.
  • * * *

    Ponce Contacts

    Museo Castillo Serralles: (787) 259-1774
    Museo de Arte de Ponce: (787) 848-0505
    Museum of Puerto Rican Music: (787) 844-9722
    Museum of the History of Ponce: (787) 844-7071
    Parque de Bombas: (787) 284-4141

    JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI